I went to linger longer today. For those who aren’t familiar with it, linger longer is a ward activity that involves staying after church for a potluck meal. Potluck meals are a pain when you have young children. You have to make sure they get something healthy to eat, that they are playing nicely, and that they don’t decide to go eat off other people’s plates…..or tip over the buffet table. As you socialize with people, you have to have part of your brain always monitoring your kiddos. Is that kid screaming mine? Or did he cause some other kid to scream? Is that my kid with the mountain of dessert on his plate? Then I’m always worried I’m going to zone out in the middle of a conversation and embarrass myself. With a big family, there is the problem of where to sit. We have large round tables that seat about ten people. With a family of six, we usually share a table with another family, but it can be tricky to make sure you don’t take too many seats or wind up with a couple of kids with no where to sit. That’s just awkward!
Anyway, when my depression/anxiety got bad a year ago, I told Ben absolutely not. Even when my sons would beg and cry, I said no way. Then when things deteriorated with the Relief Society, I didn’t know if I would ever go to a linger longer again. The smell of the food in the church house would make me feel ill. The fact that we actually made food and stayed the whole time and I didn’t panic and run to a classroom to breathe into a paper sack, is remarkable. I actually had a good time. I introduced myself to a family that moved in recently. I mingled. It was good! There was anxiety. I didn’t eat much. There were moments of awkward wandering, but it was overall a pleasant social gathering.
So I’ve done some hard things lately. I’ve started the school year. I’ve been tackling my procrastination list. I’ve been socializing more. I went to a pool party, helped clean a sister’s house twice, and went to a friend’s birthday lunch. Being more present with my ward family and more socially conscious has been a growing experience that has moments of discomfort, but overall it has been good.
I was thinking today about my last post about sisters posturing. Honestly, I’m not sure I didn’t participate in the posturing. As the sacrament was going around, I did some serious introspection. My mind was exploring the idea of female posturing and whether or not if I had participated in it. If I had, was it a sin. I decided that I didn’t think it was. Then I had a thought come into my mind that I think was inspiration. I’m going to try to explain it using a math metaphor.
So I was concerned about the possibility that I had engaged in the posturing I had observed at the cleaning activity. Then, if I had ignored my own participation in it and yet written about others engaging in it, that would have been quite rude and dishonest. But upon introspection, I couldn’t remember for sure whether I had or not. I know I didn’t engage with the sisters with authenticity. Instead, I kind of detached and tried to focus on the tile grout. The epiphany came when I realized that it didn’t matter whether I had postured or not. The fact that I was moving toward authenticity was what God cared about. This idea of movement or trajectory is what caught my mind and then I began to put the pieces together.
I stayed up late reading the scriptures. I can’t remember which chapter it was but it was Paul writing about the adoption of the Gentiles and how the Jews were the covenant people and that they were blessed and favored of the Lord, but then they lost that position and it was given to the gentiles. Paul’s style is very complex and analytical, but the spirit was with me and the meaning that the spirit was revealing to me was very clear. God doesn’t care where you are. He cares about your trajectory. Because he sees us not as a point in space, to use my mathematical metaphor, but from an eternal perspective, it is more like a line. Our past is one point on the line. Our present is another point. Our future, is the third point. God cares about what our trajectory is. Are we on a negative slope? If so, the Lord is not pleased. We need to repent. If our trajectory is positive, the Lord is pleased. Of course, we want to try to make the slope as steep as we can, but the crucial thing is, as God, he sees the slope; while as mortals we only see the present. We see the dot on grid. He sees the line.
When I look at the scriptural history through this metaphor, that chapter I read is very clear. Consider the Jews at the time of the Savior. They occupied a privileged place. They obeyed the law of Moses as they interpreted it. They looked forward to a Savior to deliver them from Rome and other political oppressors. They were imperfect, but compared to the gentiles, they were high on the graph. Then the Savior came to give them a higher law, to show them a better way, to invite them to change the trajectory of their spiritual growth. Instead of accepting this invitation, they rejected him and then killed him. This put their trajectory severely negative. The Savior put them beneath even Sodom and Gomorrah because although the Jews were superficially righteous, they were unwilling to change their trajectory. They insisted on rejecting the opportunity to repent and usher in new truth into their system. It is recorded in several places where the Savior marvels at the faith and obedience of certain gentiles he comes into contact with. Although he never taught in gentile cities or ministered outside of Judea, he understood that the time would come after he was rejected and murdered, that his gospel would be given to the gentiles where it would spread and grow, changing the spiritual landscape of the world.
As a personal application, I see myself having my emotional and spiritual ups and downs. I know where my dot is on the graph, but I also see my trajectory. I’m on a solidly positive slope. Did I posture in my interactions with the other women? Perhaps. Was I dishonest with myself and with them, hiding behind a mask of deception? Perhaps. It doesn’t really matter as long as my dot is moving toward authenticity. If it is, that is all that matters. I’m not going to attain perfection in a day. I’m going to fall short of the ideal that I am working toward, but I need not become discouraged or ashamed.
This is a big breakthrough for me in having compassion toward myself and others. It also helps me to understand the Savior’s interactions on this Earth. He didn’t see the harlot, the publican, the fisherman, the leper, the pharisee, etc; he saw their past, present, and future. The harlot’s dot was low on the graph and that was all the pharisee could see. The Savior saw her humility, her willingness to repent, her desire to improve her spiritual and emotional condition. He was impressed not by her position on the graph, but on the trajectory of her line. In contrast, the pharisee’s dot was high on the graph, but his pride and his treatment of the Savior put his trajectory in the negative, prompting the Savior to correct him.
I’ll use another example that has some political overtones, just to keep things interesting. Let’s consider those who come to our Southern border seeking asylum. They are low on the graph. Most of them have little to nothing in the way of personal possessions. As our President has so cruelly observed, they come from “sh*thole countries.” Still, the wise investor doesn’t look at companies that look
sucessfulsuccessful in the present. The wise investors look to the future to see what the company’s potential is given a place in sufficient support and investment. When America is at her finest, she welcomes the refugee and the immigrant knowing that those who have the fortitude and determination to come to this land usually have the potential needed to be successful here. Their success has made America the greatest country in the world. By closing our doors to them, we deprive ourselves of their potential while also earning ourselves a rebuke from the Savior.
When the Savior teaches that the last shall be first and the first shall be last it always makes me think. He is perfectly fair and just. He is no respecter of persons. He sees me as a line, not a point. I hope that I can learn to see others that way as well. I hope that as I live my life that I can be the person who is a friend when the chips are down, a confidant when the truth is hard to share, a comfort to the one who is sitting in a dark place. If I can do those things, perhaps my Master will be pleased with me.